Opening Day is officially in the books. So what are we left with, other than the sobering reality that we only have seven more months to go? We know it’s not the wisest move to make evaluations based off of one day of baseball, but it sure is fun.
If Monday is any indication, we are headed for a big year by some big arms — and some big-name kiddies. But we start where we ended the day, on the West Coast, with undoubtedly the day’s most bizarre story.
UHHH … CAN I TAKE THAT GIFT BACK?
Felix Hernandez started his day by paying thanks to former catcher John Jaso, giving him a Rolex watch as reward for catching King Felix’s perfect game last season.
Then Hernandez took the mound and sat down the first 10 Oakland Athletics he faced on Opening Night.
So 10 outs into a budding perfect game, who should step to the plate but, you guessed it, Jaso. Apparently he didn’t like the idea of being on the receiving end of a Felix perfecto — he doubled to left-center to end a shot at history (there has never been an Opening Day perfect game).
Wonder what ‘gift’ Hernandez will give Jaso for that one. Here’s a shot of the watch, at least:
Oh by the way, Hernandez went 7-2/3 strong innings, giving up only three hits and striking out eight as the Mariners opened the season with a 2-0 win in Oakland. It was a strong outing by one of baseball’s youngest stars. But it wasn’t the strongest.
THE NATS CAN DO IT ALL
While most baseball fans might have been waiting to see how many strikeouts Stephen Strasburg would record in Washington’s opener on Monday, the excitement out of the Nationals came from Bryce Harper.
His day got off to a great start before the game even started, getting this nifty award for winning last season’s NL Rookie of the Year. Then he quickly went to work on collecting some new hardware, like an MVP trophy.
Harper homered in his first at-bat — and second AB — of the season in the Nationals’ 2-0 victory over the Miami Marlins. On the second pitch Harper saw from Miami’s Ricky Nolasco in the bottom of the first, Harper ripped one over the right-field wall.
In the bottom of the fourth, Harper homered again for a 2-0 Nats’ lead.
A former big league slugger had a message for Harper following the game.
Harper failed to get a hit in his next two at-bats, finishing 2 for 4. He flew out to left-center in the sixth and popped out foul down the first-base line in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Strasburg only struck out three, but he recorded the win, yielding just three hits and no walks over seven innings and 80 pitches.
CLAYTON KERSHAW CAN DO IT ALL BY HIMSELF
Perhaps more than at any other ballpark, Opening Day at Dodger Stadium is as much about the atmosphere as it is the result on the field. With celebrities in the stands, the owner’s box and the play-by-play booth, that first Monday at Chavez Ravine is about soaking in the sun and the fun, and cheering on the Dodgers while you’re in those long lines at the concessions stands.
But on Monday, ace lefty Clayton Kershaw stole the show, while making sure the party lasted well into the late afternoon — and he wasn’t going to wait for the Dodgers bats to come alive to do it.
Kershaw’s Dodgers were locked in a scoreless tie with the visiting San Francisco Giants through 7½ innings. That’s when the former Cy Young winner blasted a solo homer to center off George Kontos to give LA the lead.
And since we’re in Hollywood, why not give the season its own star-studded movie trailer? Go to FOXSportsWest.com to check out Jessica Alba, Britney Spears and some of Tinseltown’s biggest players in this 7-1/2 minute monster.
And how many current teams wouldn’t kill for this battery?
Major League Baseball begins its season by honoring the 26 people killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December. All teams will wear patches honoring the victims of the shootings on their uniform.
At Yankee Stadium, the names, written in script, streamed slowly down on the video board in center field of the 20 children and six educators who died in the shooting. Fans in the sellout crowd of nearly 50,000 were on their feet, silent, as were the players on the field.
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo attached a patch to a lapel on his pinstriped charcoal suit.
”It’s so we don’t forget about the people in Newtown,” Rizzo said, tapping the patch with his hand. ”It honors them and keeps them in our thoughts.”
The Yankees will also invite about 3,000 children, families and others in the Newtown community to their July 7 game against Baltimore.
While the feared trio of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols went a combined 1 for 14, journeyman catcher Chris Iannetta drove in every run, hitting a solo homer in third and a bases-loaded single in the 13th that proved to be the difference.
Apparently not too many fans stuck around Great American Ball Park to see the ending, though, as temps dipped into the 40s. And most of the ones that did stick it out didn’t go home happy, including a pretty well-known Buckeye:
1-1 top of the 13th…40 degrees. Only the true Gamers stick around to cheer in the Redlegs to an opening day win!! twitter.com/KirkHerbstreit…
And as if losing the opener with your ace on the mound isn’t bad enough, here’s perhaps more sobering news for the Yankees. In getting roughed by the BoSox for four runs on eight hits in five innings in the loss, Sabathia did not look like his usual dominant self.
And some people took notice:
From @ktsharp: CC Sabathia’s average fastball velocity was down by 2.4 mph from last season’s opening day, from 92.1 to 89.7 mph.
Not everybody left Opening Day feeling comfortable about their pitching staff. Let’s start with the Cubs.
Former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija was phenomenal on the mound, throwing eight scoreless innings while striking out nine. His work was good enough for a 3-0 lead and had him in line for the win with three outs to go. Enter Carlos Marmol.
The closer (for now, at least), struck out Garrett Jones, but then hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch, yielded an RBI single to Pedro Alvarez and walked Gaby Sanchez. Of course, the Cubs boo-birds appeared all over the social media universe.
In the case of Carlos Marmol, the position should probably be called "opener." A lead is never safe. #cubs
Cubs skipper Dale Sveum opted to pull his closer and brought in James Russell, who induced Neil Walker to fly out to right. Then Sveum went to the bullpen again, calling on Kyuji Fujikawa, who sealed the 3-1 victory by getting Russell Martin to fly out to center. After the game, Sveum said he is sticking with his closer — for now.
CLOSING PROBLEM II
The next major league closer to fail to the shut the door was Milwaukee’s John Axford.
After the Brewers scored three times in the bottom of the eighth to take a one-run lead in Colorado, Axford entered and struck out the first two Rockies he faced. …
Then he served up a solo shot to Dexter Fowler and it was all tied up at 4-4.
Not a great way to celebrate your birthday.
After such a long wait and many sleepless nights… It’s finally here… My 30th birthday! Aaaaaaand #OpeningDay, which is waaaaaay better!
BUT BACK TO THAT CUBS-PIRATES GAME — EXPLODING ROSIN BAGS?
Looks like somebody on the Pittsburgh roster got the better of Pirates starter A.J. Burnett on April Fools’ Day. While Burnett was in the middle of striking out 10 Cubs over 5-2/3 innings with his explosive fastball, he was also dealing with exploding rosin bags (click on the image below to see the video):
MORE CUBS-PIRATES — SAMARDZIJA’S BIG DAY
Once a Golden Domer, always a Golden Domer, as Notre Dame was taking notice of its former two-sport star on Monday:
Jeff Samardzija punches out nine in 8.0 scoreless innings as the @cubs knock off the @pirates 3-1 in season opener #domeball
New York Mets center fielder Collin Cowgill hit the first grand slam of the 2013 season in an 11-2 victory over the visiting San Diego Padres. His four-run blast, the final runs of the game, came off reliever Brad Bach in the seventh inning.
It was Cowgill’s first career grand slam. The University of Kentucky product only had two homers in 74 career games before Monday.
With Jonathon Niese starting and picking up the win, Cowgill might want to thank Niese’s wife and her lucky panties.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo went yard in his first at-bat, ripping a two-run blast off of Burnett for a 2-0 lead.
We’re not sure if Warren Sapp is a Cubs fan, but the NFL great, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, was paying attention — even though he retweeted a post from a Chicago sportscaster.
RT @ryan_g_baker Anthony Rizzo 2-run HR on his 1st pitch of the season. Not a bad start #Cubs